How to Deadlift: A Step By Step Guide
The deadlift is a crucial part of any workout, regardless of your goals. It's one of the best exercises for strength and power, not to mention overall health.
But if you're like most people who want to start lifting weights but aren't quite sure how to do a deadlift (or if you've never tried one), then read on!
We'll cover how to properly execute this fundamental exercise so you can finally add it to your routine.
What is deadlifting?
Deadlifting is a compound exercise that works multiple muscle groups, including the hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and back.
Deadlifts are usually done with free weights, but you can also use resistance bands or machine weights to perform them.
To deadlift correctly, you first must keep your feet hip-width apart. This will help you maintain a strong base and keep your weight distributed evenly.
Bend your knees slightly. This allows you to get into the proper position without having to overstrain or injure yourself.
Position your shoulders over the bar so that it remains close to your body when you lift it off the ground. This will prevent injury from occurring in the lower back area as well as improve balance during lifts by keeping them close together.
Otherwise, you might have them spread too wide apart, like when using dumbbells, which is incorrect for deadlift exercises.
Pick Your Weight
In this next step of how to deadlift, you stand with feet hip-width apart holding the bar in front of your shins with arms straight down at the sides.
Then, bend your knees until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor.
Afterward, lift the weight by extending your hips while keeping your back straight.
Then return to the starting position by bending your knees until they've almost locked out again.
Grip the bar
After you've done the first two parts correctly (don't underestimate them in the how-to deadlift guide! Your proper setup means everything for your safety!) grip the bar.
There are several deadlift variations to do this, but we recommend a mixed grip or overhand grip:
A mixed grip means the right-hand grips the bar with an underhand grip and the left-hand grips with an overhand grip.
This allows you to lift more weight than you could by using just one hand because your grip strength is doubled, but it's not as stable as other styles because both hands rotate during the lift.
In an overhead grip, your palms face forward when you hold on to each side of the barbell shoulder width apart or closer together, creating a straight line from wrist to shoulder.
This is without twisting either palm inward toward your body or outward away from your body.
If done correctly, this position gives you better leverage for pulling heavy weights off of racks or off blocks set on platforms above ground level so that they don't hit the floor when being lifted off.
Double Overhand Grip
A double overhand grip (a pronated grip) is the most common type of grip athletes use in Olympic deadlifting competitions.
For the double overhand grip, reach down and grip the barbell with your left hand and right hand with both of your palms facing toward you.
It's recommended to use deadlift variations when it comes to grip type. It lessens injury chances and protects your muscle groups from tearing, as well as increases your grip strength in various ways.
Once you chose your grip, you're ready for the next step in our how-to deadlift guide!
Bend your Knees
In this how-to deadlift step, you need to push your hips back and bend your knees. This is very important for a correct deadlift form as it will help keep the bar over the middle of your foot and prevent it from rolling out in front of you.
Keep Your Chest up and Shoulders Back
For the correct deadlift form, keep your back straight by keeping a neutral spine arch in the lower back. Make sure not to round it or bend forward at the waist.
Also, keep your chest up as if there was an imaginary string pulling on it from above, drawing it upward while keeping your shoulders pulled back and down away from your ears.
The key to performing this lift correctly is to keep your chest up and shoulders back throughout the movement.
The proper deadlift form ensures that you don't round forward at any point during the lift or let your chin drop down toward your chest.
Benefits Of The Deadlift Exercise
There are tons of benefits to deadlifting. The main benefit of performing deadlifts regularly is that they strengthen all major muscle groups in the body including the glutes (buttocks), hamstrings (back thigh muscles), quadriceps (front thigh muscles), lower back muscles, and abdominal muscles.
Also, shoulders and arms when using weightlifting equipment such as barbells or dumbbells as they require these areas to be able to be strong enough to support heavy loads without injury occurring.
Deadlifts are one of the best exercises for building strength and muscle mass. They're also one of the most effective ways to build your backside — especially if you're new to lifting weights.
In addition to building muscle strength, deadlifting has been shown to have other benefits:
Improve overall health
When you regularly deadlift with proper form, exercise reduces risk factors for chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Improve Body Composition
Deadlifts have been shown to increase lean body mass more than any other exercise.
According to research published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research in 2015, deadlifts may improve balance in older adults by increasing strength and coordination.
Improve bone density
A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that heavy resistance training like deadlifting can increase bone mineral density in older adults.
The fun thing about deadlifting is that they are a lot of variations that vary from heavier weights to lighter weights, to form, and other aspects.
The more you know, the more choices you have to incorporate into your workout depending on your preferences.
As long as you're in the proper deadlift form, and closely pay attention to how to deadlift with a proper form guide, then any of those variations will be beneficial and without injury.
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
The Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift is a great exercise to add to your workout routine. It targets the lower back, hamstrings, and glutes.
To perform this deadlift movement:
Hold two dumbbells by your sides with palms facing forward. Then keep your knees slightly bent and chest up tall throughout the entire exercise.
Bend at the hips while keeping your back flat, until you feel an intense stretch in your hamstrings.
Hold this position for 2 seconds before returning to starting position slowly without allowing momentum from swinging or jerking movements that would disturb the correct form and take away from its effectiveness as an exercise tool.
Stiff-Legged Dumbbell Deadlift
The stiff-legged dumbbell deadlift is a great way to introduce the deadlift into your routine.
It's a variation of the traditional barbell and kettlebell versions, but it also has its own set of benefits.
For example, holding the weights with your palms facing each other will help you keep better balance as you lift them off the floor. Plus, it'll ensure that your back remains straight and your chest up throughout every rep.
To perform this deadlift movement, stand with feet shoulder-width apart while holding two heavy dumbbells at arm's length in front of your thighs with arms straight.
Then keeping your back straight with a neutral position and chest up, bend your knees until they touch the floor.
Then lift back up by extending your legs until standing tall again. And repeat.
Single Leg RDL (Romanian Deadlift)
The single-leg Romanian deadlift is a great exercise for developing strength in your hamstrings and glutes as well.
It's also useful for improving balance and stability in your entire body, which can help prevent injuries when performing other lifts such as squats or lunges.
To perform this exercise with a proper form, stand on one leg with the opposite foot raised in front of you.
Then, bend at the hips while keeping your shoulders back and chest up by reaching down towards the floor with both hands holding weights. Don't let your knee go past your toes!
Maintain good posture throughout this movement. Don't round your back or lean forward too far because these will put unnecessary stress on muscles that aren't meant to do all of the work during this movement.
To perform the kettlebell deadlift, you'll need a kettlebell (or two) and plenty of space.
Then stand with feet at hip-width apart with knees bent slightly and toes pointed forward.
Hold one or two kettlebells in front of you with palms facing outwards. Keep them level with each other as you pull them up toward your chest until they reach chin height or just below it if possible.
Then shift all weight onto one leg while keeping hips square, then slowly lower down again until legs are straight but not locked out - repeat on both sides until the complete set is finished before moving on to the next exercise.
Sumo Kettlebell Deadlift
The sumo deadlift is a variation of the conventional deadlift that involves picking up a weight from the floor and placing it back down.
It's performed with legs spread wide, almost like a sumo wrestler would stand. This stance tends to emphasize the quadriceps and gluteal muscles over the hamstrings, making it an effective exercise for building strength in these areas.
Romanian Kettlebell Deadlift
This is a great variation on Romanian deadlifts because it's much easier on the lower back than on traditional deadlifts. As they put less stress on your lower back and allow you to lift heavier weights in a proper form.
To perform this exercise, simply hold a kettlebell with both hands and stand with feet about hip-width apart.
Keep the kettlebell close to your body as you bend down, keeping it tight to prevent swinging or dropping of weight.
Squeeze your glutes at top of the movement and keep your core tight throughout the entire set.
Stiff-Legged Kettlebell Deadlift
The Stiff-Legged Kettlebell Deadlift is a great variation for beginners. It helps to build strength in the hamstrings and glutes, as well as teaches proper form for the traditional deadlift. The steps to how to deadlift with this variation are:
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and arms hanging down at your sides.
Hold a kettlebell in front of your thighs with both hands (or use one hand if you're just starting).
Keep back straight, chest up, and shoulders back as you lift the kettlebell off of the ground by bending at the hips until it reaches knee height or slightly above it.
The weight should be resting on top of each leg evenly throughout this movement; don't let either side take more weight than another!
Lower back down slowly until legs are straight again before repeating reps.
How to Deadlift: Deadlift Form Tips
The deadlift is an excellent full-body exercise that requires strength, endurance, and flexibility to perform properly.
But if done incorrectly, it can also lead to serious injury—and not just a pulled muscle or two.
Warm up before doing deadlifts.
Warm-ups are generally important for any exercise but especially for deadlifting.
This will help you avoid injuries and get the most out of your workout and deadlift safely.
Get Into a Comfortable Position
Proper deadlift form is crucial to safety and maximum benefit. Keep the proper form with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and back straight.
Keep your shoulders pulled back and down during the entire movement.
Make sure that as you stand up from the bottom position that your knees don't come forward past your toes as this puts extra stress on them as well as makes it more difficult for you to complete the lift safely and effectively! The bar should be at about waist height when standing upright at the top position.
Use a spotter.
If you're lifting heavy weights, it's always a good idea to have someone watch over you and help out if something goes wrong.
And even if you're not lifting heavy weights, it's still smart to have someone nearby in case something unexpected happens with your grip strength or otherwise.
Don't round your back or arch excessively during the lift. This causes spinal compression that can lead to injury. You should have a straight line and neutral spine from head to toe throughout the lift so that there's no bending in any direction except at the knees and hips.
Keep the Bar Close
Pulling the bar close protects your upper body, shoulder blades, and back muscles from injury and helps you stay in proper deadlift form.
Start with Lighter Weight
If you're new to the deadlift form, then don't rush into practicing it with heavier weights. First, focus on practicing the proper deadlift form and exactly how to deadlift.
Then as you get better and stronger, replace the lighter weight and start lifting heavier weights.
Don't try to rush through this lift because it's easy to get sloppy with form when you're rushing things along—and that's when accidents happen.
Focus on each rep carefully so that each rep counts for something and doesn't take away from other reps later on in the workout.
Stretch the muscles involved
While this isn't a strict step in how to deadlift, stretching is generally great for your entire body and flexibility.
And it's especially important to target the deadlift muscle groups so that it's easier and more natural to get into the correct form and lessens your chances of muscle tears.
If you're looking for a way to build strength, improve your overall health, and increase your muscle mass, then the deadlift is an excellent exercise. It's also great for improving balance and coordination.
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